Continue Reading Aging in Place and Technology #6" />

Aging in Place and Technology #6

by Louis on October 10, 2008

Environmental Controls

Environmental Control is my last entry in this series. The most recognized goals are comfort and energy savings. Common applications are lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation & air conditioning). For our purposes safety and supporting independence are the focus.

Many household elements can be controlled remotely or automatically. They include safety, task and mood lighting, entertainment components, seeing or hearing who is at the door, and even unlocking it. X10 is the basic industry standard for radio wave controls as well as a brand name. Programmable thermostats have been around for quite a while. The variety of functions have grown significantly. Lutron, a leader in lighting controls, has a range of systems for shades and lighting. What are additional Aging in Place benefits?

Personalizing space for comfort and usefulness is emerging. Temperature and lighting are both good examples. We know that some like it warmer, some cooler. LED lighting will help us select light that works best for each of us. The right light qualities may relieve the need for glasses. What if your wristwatch, pendant, or an implanted chip helped the room adjust as you enter? Energy would be saved and our homes will be better suited to our individual conditions.

Robot vacuums are available. They are time savers for harried consumers. We see their value when balance and stamina are limiting factors.

Remote window control illuminates an issue. Providing a remote operator for window control may allow someone who has trouble getting up to enjoy the good breeze and also close the window as the day cools. Or does it allow a person to be lazy and avoid what exercise they might get opening the window on their own? For some the remote is liberating. For others the remote is less positive. If I was leaving my dad alone on the couch all day while I am working, I want him to enjoy the day as he sees fit. If he cannot get up or getting up may use the energy he needs to visit the bathroom I think the opener is a great idea. Please also see my recent post Riding with the Radio Off.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

A keyless lockset can offer access without a resident needing to ‘answer the door’. Coupled with a wireless intercom, a guest, delivery or caregiver can be granted access while preserving strength.

New ovens change from refrigerator mode to cook mode. Load a casserole before work so it stays cool all day and is warm when you get home. Call it an advanced crock pot. A further advance is a remote control oven. Change the start time from your cellphone while having a second drink with your buddies. These developments and dreams are called Smart Homes.

These are not far off “Star Wars” ideas. Those that are not available are just around the corner.The also illustrate the importance of Universal Design. Products that come to market as difficult and confusing as the average TV remote will not be easily adopted by Aging in Place consumers. If the developers and engineers work with less tech savvy consumers to get these products right before they go to market everyone will benefit including folks who could figure out how to work it but will be relieved of that technical hassle. That is Universal Design in action. Benefits for consumers at the population fringe benefit everyone.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Durkson October 13, 2008 at 3:19 am

Aloha Louis,

I’ve read your blog with great interest as your postings have been
helping us formulate our business model.

The mission of is to help baby boomers age in place with the help of useful technologies.

We’ve spent the last year learning
about many innovative low and high tech devices which can help people proactively manage their health and wellness.

The term “accessibility” extends beyond lifespan and/or inclusive design now to also mean accessibility to family caregivers and healthcare providers via digital bridges and remote patient monitoring and disease management programs.

As the trends towards patient-centric vs. doctor-centric healthcare AND aging in place converge with 75 million tech savvy baby boomers-many coping with caregiver roles- the demand for more accessible smart homes along with in-home telecare solutions will grow exponentially in the coming decade.

Universal design of homes and user-friendly in-home digital health and wellness devices will play a leading role in helping our society cope with the agewave descending upon us.

Thanks for your vital contributions to these transformative developments!

Peter Durkson
Maui, Hawaii


Konrad Kaletsch, October 28, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Louis Tenenbaum:

Fantastic blog! How generous and thorough you are both with information and in providing photos and links. In reading the Aging In Place Technology series, I see a range of technologies that come in when universal design isn’t enough. This is a fascinating extension for universal design in that the user not only has a home that works well but now has additional support systems and monitors such that the age-in-place option continues. How great to have you open the discourse new technologies and relative efficiencies. On my next blog entry at, I will touch briefly on these advances and send my readers to your blog for the in depth discussion.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: